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Ukraine's foreign minister Boris Tarasyuk discusses his country's role after the Orange Revolution

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Ukraine's foreign minister Boris Tarasyuk discusses his country's role after the Orange Revolution

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One year after the ‘Orange Revolution’ Ukraine is still trying to find its place in Europe and in the world. The gas conflict with Russia, the unstable political and economical situation and upcoming elections complicate the issue. Euronews’ Albina Lear discussed all those problems with Ukrainian foreign minister Boris Tarasyuk, when he visited Brussels.

Euronews:
Mr Tarasyuk, welcome to Euronews. So, these days Ukrainian foreign policy has a different emphasis. Which is easier for you, flying to Brussels, Washington or to Moscow?

Boris Tarasyuk:
Personally for me as foreign minister all three capitals are equally important. Because European and Atlantic integration and also good-neighbourly structural relationships with the Russian Federation are external priorities for Ukraine.

Euronews:
The gas conflict with Russia, if it did not spoil the relations between two neighbouring countries, certainly considerably complicated them. What lessons has Kiev learned from this situation?

Boris Tarasyuk:
Ukraine, like the other countries of the EU, drew well-defined conclusions from this dispute. The first conclusion is that now the priority task for our government is the transition to energy saving technologies in order to cut the consumption of gas. The second conclusion is to increase our own production of gas. The third conclusion is to diversify our sources of energy supply. And in this connection Ukraine is working with other countries in order to create alternative routes for delivering gas to Ukraine and through Ukraine to the EU.

Euronews:
Well, let’s return to the events of December. You described what Russia did in increasing gas prices as blackmail. Why? In fact if one country is leaving a ‘Single Economic Entity’ (The common free market zone that unites some post Soviet republics) – as Kiev admitted – it cannot count on the continuation of the prices that existed in that entity.

Boris Tarasyuk:
Ukraine didn’t take anything from Russia ‘for free’. But in any case we could not accept, that suddenly – within a few days – gas prices were raised five-fold for Ukraine from 50 to 230 dollars. The manner in which these demands were made – I mean ‘ultimatums’ – to us it sounded like just blackmail and an attempt to destabilize Ukraine’s economy.

Euronews:
Turning to the Black Sea Fleet. I know you don’t like it when this issue is linked with the gas conflict. But nevertheless, this problem came up at the same time. Delegations from the two countries are meeting each other in February to discuss the issue. What is Ukraine planning to propose?

Boris Tarasyuk:
Taking into account that Ukraine doesn’t need to lease these areas, and it’s the Russians who want to rent our territory to temporarily base its BSF (Black Sea Fleet) there, then we expect that they will fulfill their obligations . We have enough grounds to talk about with the problems that arise in implementing Russia’s obligations under the agreement from 1997 (the agreement for the BSF presence to be in Sevastopol until 2017). So, that’s what the two delegations are going to discuss. But anyway after 2017 there will be no extension of the presence of the BSF in the Crimea. We are not going even to discuss this point.

Euronews:
What about Ukraine’s plans to join the EU. Do you accept that the prospects of Ukrainian membership in the EU don’t look as bright today as they did a year ago during the big demonstrations in Taydane (Kiev’s main square, the centre of the revolution).

Boris Tarasyuk:
If the question is just about the next to two to three years, I agree with you. If the question is about the long term, I’d like to dare to assert that Ukraine can count on membership in the EU around 2015.

Euronews:
I understand it’s really difficult to speculate two months before the elections. But let’s try. Taking into account that starting from this year the new political reforms you inherited from President Leonid Kuchma mean the biggest part of presidential power has to pass to the parliament, isn’t the president afraid of becoming “king without a kingdom”. There is a possibility that after the parliamentary elections, Victor Yuschenko ‘s opponents will hold the majority.

Boris Tarasyuk:
I think, the hard-line and strongest opponents to the policies of President Yuschenko and his team will have 30-35% of the seats in the future parliament. The other political parties have every possibility of uniting to create a majority. If personal ambitions will be put on the back burner it’s completely realistic to expect the creation of a coalition that would have 60-65% of the seats in the parliament.

Euronews:
One year after the revolution, Ukraine has changed premiers twice, there’ve been corruptions scandals, high profile sackings, re-privatisations and so on. What do you think is the image of Ukraine and Ukrainians in Europe?

Boris Tarasyuk:
Of course everything that has happened did affect the image of Ukraine. The splits inside our “Orange team” were caused by the Ukranian people not being satisfied, because the Orange Revolution had created a very high expectation of what the new adminstration could do.